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Thursday, 16 September 1971
Page: 1424

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - The Government rejects the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The rural reconstruction employment training scheme is designed to be part and parcel of the rural reconstruction scheme. There may be need for unemployment benefits or for opportunities to be given to other people outside this scheme but that is another matter. The honourable member for Dawson talks about a comprehensive scheme. This proposal could be part of a comprehensive scheme if such a comprehensive scheme were needed in the total concept. I remind the honourable member for Dawson that the record of the Government in the matter of unemployment is a very good one. It is a better one than Labor governments have offered in most cases. It bears favourable comparison with schemes operated in other countries.

Let me indicate what other countries have done in this respect. Have they decided that the schemes or the ideas that have been proposed by the Opposition on this occasion represent the right way in which to tackle this problem? Let us look at what has happened in other countries. Rural retraining schemes for displaced rural labour, according to the information that I have before me, have been introduced in many countries including Germany, the Netherlands, the United States of America, Canada, Japan, France, Norway and Sweden. Yet, the honourable member for Dawson says that we must have a comprehensive scheme. I suggest that his proposal is simply a way of grasping a poor opportunity to offer criticism of the Government at the expense of Australia's rural unemployed and to endeavour to delay the application of this excellent scheme. The only 2 Opposition spokesmen who know anything about rural industry - and they do not know much - have not been able to make out a real case against this scheme. They have tried very hard and I suppose that one can always forgive them when they have tried as hard as they have done on this occasion. So this is the object of the amendment, and the Government rejects it.

The rural reconstruction employment training scheme is an important part of the whole of rural reconstruction. The statement which was presented by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) clearly sets out that opportunities will be provided for those people who are unemployed now as a result of conditions which are operating in rural industry, including technological change which has been admitted by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) as being one of those conditions.

Mr Foster - No, it is not.

Mr CORBETT - You keep to the things that you do know; you are not much good on them either. As far as I am concerned, it is a matter for regret that circumstances have created the need for this type of opportunity to be given to many of these people. It would be better if the necessity for this scheme could have been avoided because our rural areas and country towns have a great need for population. But with the circumstances now operating which, in the main, are very largely well beyond the control of this Government, something has to be done about them.

Very often members of the Opposition accuse the Government, particularly members of the Country Party, of representing anything but people. In this scheme, we show our sympathy for the people. This scheme might be against the best interests of the Country Party from a population point of view. From a purely political angle, it might be that we would wish to keep as many people in the country as we can. But we cannot continue to keep people in the country unless reasonable opportunities are available there for them.

That does not mean that we will not take every opportunity to try to promote regional development. I hope that the Government will encourage the establishment of industry in country towns so that opportunities for employment will be available there for these people who are so much in need of employment opportunities. Honourable members opposite should realise that this scheme, which has the support of the Country Party, is in the interests of those people represented mainly by the Country Party. Certainly these people are represented more effectively by the Country Party than they were when they were represented to their disadvantage, by honourable members on the Opposition benches.

The proposed rural reconstruction employment training scheme is a voluntary one. The opportunity is given to these people. They do not need to take part in the scheme if they do not wish to. Let me emphasise that proposals similar to this scheme have been introduced in so many other countries which have recognised as Australia now realises the need for such a scheme. Having recognised the need for such a scheme, the Government has lived up to its responsibilities and has made it a part of our rural reconstruction scheme. This scheme does emphasise the need to encourage industry in our rural towns.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr CORBETT - Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned that the Country Party represents most of the people who will be affected by this scheme and that they are effectively represented by the Party. There are also members of the Liberal Party who represent rural areas and they too give much more effective representation than do members of the Opposition. I also mentioned that the scheme emphasises the need to encourage industry in rural areas. I think this is something that should be given very serious consideration by the Government even if it is done at some cost to the community at large because while we recognise the necessity of providing employment for these people it is essential that they be given an opportunity to live and earn a reasonable income in the areas from which they come. It is much more beneficial to the nation at large if employment can be found for them in the areas from which they come. I also spoke about the development of schemes of this type in other countries. I think this is something that can stand some emphasis.

As I said before, and I think it is worth repeating, I sympathise with those people in the country towns - and I know many of them - who are having great difficulty as the result, to a great degree at any rate, of the lack of prosperity in rural industries. But as I pointed out this is another aspect of the total scheme. I am sure it is an aspect that will be given consideration by the Minister if an examination of the scheme is made and if there is a means by which such a scheme can be applied to give special consideration to people in a special field just as it applies to the people who are now finding difficulty in making a reasonable living in the circumstances in which they find themselves. Even this scheme has its problems. As I understand it, there is no accurate pattern of demand for retraining yet discernible by the Department of Labour and National Service. It has to be defined and we do not want to complicate the scheme by including those categories which the honourable member for Dawson would try to include in it. I repeat that the introduction of his idea into this scheme could do nothing but delay the very urgently needed assistance for those people who are now waiting for this scheme to be set in motion. So let us get on with the job.

If members of the Opposition were honest I am sure that after having heard my comments and after having made their speeches they would be prepared to admit that the introduction of this scheme does not disadvantage anybody. There is plenty of room for a scheme to cater for these people. If the Opposition wants to bring another one forward the Government can have a look at it. As I said, the pattern of demand is not clearly apparent at this stage but interest has been shown in the scheme since it was announced. Of course, no statistics are available to give us a clear picture, although it is reasonably clear, of the lines upon which this rural reconstruction employment training scheme will eventually be run, or the extent to which certain sections of it will be utilised. For example, we have to look pretty carefully at the attitude that will be taken by the older members of the community. They too are deserving of all the assistance that we can give them. They too have spent their lives in an endeavour to promote the welfare of Australia and its people and they must be given consideration.

But their attitude would certainly be different to that of the younger people and would, in all probability, lean more towards the practical open air type of occupation such as that of a motor mechanic or welder - something that they can turn their hands to more easily. I think the younger farmers could reasonably be expected to be more ambitious. Their minds would turn more to a long term future. They could reasonably be expected to lean towards an occupation with a better future and greater financial rewards. The whole plan should be developed along those lines. When we see what is happening the scheme can be adapted and, no doubt, improved in some ways to meet the full requirement. I want to make another one or two points with regard to some of the aspects of this worldwide problem. I commend the Minister and the Government on introducing this very com prehensive plan, but let us look at what is happening even in an industrial nation like Japan. The Japanese too are giving special attention to the rural sector. In Japan grants are made available to farmers who settled after the war up to the end of March 1958 and whose farm is in a difficult situation and offers no prospects, for the future and who, although they would like to leave agriculture, are unable to do so through lack of funds.

So there are many problems confronting people in other countries. In France the AMPRA, an association for occupational transfers in agriculture, has been set up. The French Minister for Agriculture approved the setting up of. a specialised association and allocated funds for its operation. The Minister pointed to the difficulties associated with action to facilitate occupational movements. The duties of the AMPRA consist in particular of seeking out under-employed persons in agriculture. This is a clear example of the worldwide trend which Australia is facing up to with a very well drafted scheme which was presented to the Parliament this morning. In addition to what I have said about seeking out under-employed persons the AMPRA also has the duty of informing those people of the general opportunities available for vocational re-adjustment, helping them to select the vocational training best meeting their qualifications and the labour, market and conditions, giving them every assistance and encouraging them to change their occupation if they are in the position in which we find so many of our people in rural areas today through, as I emphasised, no fault of the Government but through a change in circumstances.

Mr Grassby - Rubbish! That is not true.

Mr CORBETT - It is all very well for the Opposition to claim that but this is a worldwide situation. Honourable members opposite are prepared to blame the Government for everything. I sometimes think - and I would like to use what little time I have left without interruption - when I look at the suggestions made by members of the Opposition over recent years that they must surely have adopted the Social Credit principle of printing money because of the things they want to do. They have no financial worries. They just put everything up and it does not matter 2 hoots what the cost is because they do not have to find the money. I commend the Minister and the Government on this scheme and in the interests of those people who badly need the services that will be provided I hope that its implementation will not be delayed.

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